The Reuters global sports blog
England will go into day four of the second Ashes test in complete control having closed day three on 311 for 6, giving them a massive 521 lead over Australia, who will be asked to chase down a record total to avoid defeat.
Despite bowling out Australia an hour into the morning session, 11 runs short of avoiding the follow-on total of 225, England captain Andrew Strauss decided against asking the tourists to bat again after seeing Australia’s tail-enders play with purpose and in some comfort in clement overhead conditions on what is still a favourable batting surface.
Strauss’s decision appeared vindicated as he and opening partner Alistair Cook added 50 in just 11 overs before breaking for lunch.
But the afternoon session saw a refocused Australia begin to fight back as off-spinner Nathan Hauritz showed his class as a bowler and a man as wheeled away with a dislocated finger and further confounded his critics by dismissing first Cook and then Strauss with some beautifully flighted deliveries.
I’m still unsure as to whether England’s first innings total of 425 is a good score on what is essentially still a flat Lord’s track, but with Australia 156 for 8 at the close of play on the second the home side can be proud of their efforts so far.
Australia took just 11 overs of the morning session on day two to polish off England’s tail, as Andrew Strauss, unbeaten on 161 overnight, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad, provided little resistance to some good swing bowling by Ben Hilfenhaus.
I’m still not quite sure how, but somehow England escaped with a draw from the first Ashes Test against Australia, closing out the fifth day on 252-9, 13 runs ahead of the Aussie total and with no time left for the tourists to bat.
Talk about getting out of jail. Ricky Ponting must have thought he had the match won when England were five wickets down and still facing a massive 137-run deficit in the morning sessions.
In all honesty they didn’t deserve any fortune after another day’s abject bowling display and signs from Strauss early on that it was a damage limitation exercise by time wasting with field placings and underbowling key bowlers.
End of day two: Australia 249 for one in reply to England’s 435 all out.
What a difference a day makes. If Wednesday’s cricket was a breathtaking rollercoaster ride then day 2 was more like a gentle twirl on the teacups followed by a night in reading War and Peace.
All credit to the Australians who were magnificent in making England’s bowling look impotent and the pitch benign.
What an extraordinary first day of Test match cricket, even by Ashes standards. A day that ebbed and flowed, that tormented and teased both sets of supporters and ultimately left us with the question: where does the balance of this match lie?
As Kev notes, lunch for England would have been the equivalent of trying to digest tarmac, a disconcerting affair to say the least. Having won the toss and electing to bat England were reduced to 92-3 by a persevering if unspectacular Australian attack, which left the Barmy Army cowering behind their beer snakes fearing the worst.
Australia have no Shane Warne, no Glenn McGrath, no Brett Lee and no Stuart Clark, yet England still managed to lose three wickets on the opening morning of the first Ashes Test and failed to take the sort of grip on the match, and the series, that was there for the taking.
They lost four more wickets over the course of the day, to finish on 336 for seven, but it was a case of England playing themselves into trouble rather than any genuine menace on the part of the Aussie attack (the exception being the beautiful inducker from Peter Siddle that did for Matt Prior late on).
The news that the West Indies squad for Thursday’s first test against Bangladesh have withdrawn their services, effectively announcing a boycott of the series, has thrown cricket in the once-proud Caribbean into further chaos and things could turn very nasty in the coming days.
The dispute regards contractual issues, payments that the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) insist are long overdue, and other matters of compensation. The WIPA say that their players have appeared in the last four series without any form of contract. The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) position, to summarise very briefly, is that the WIPA’s demands have been unreasonable. If you are interested in the details (and there are lots of them) then both sides have put their cases online:
Australia captain Ricky Ponting will be praying that the rumours of a sideways turning Cardiff wicket prove to be complete fallacy when the Ashes series begins on Wednesday.
Ponting’s team have been bereft of a front-line spinner since the retirement of the mercurial Shane Warne in 2007 and Stuart McGill shortly after.
England’s cricketers face a monumental task if they are to regain the Ashes they surrendered so meekly in 2006/07. Forget 2005 for a moment and take a longer-term view. Since the turn of the 20th Century, England have managed just 17 victories in Ashes series, compared to Australia’s 30, as they have regularly been confounded technically and mentally.
A 2-0 series win over the West Indies at the start of the summer buoyed England’s confidence but looks can be deceiving. The fact is, England have failed to beat a leading Test playing nation home or away since Pakistan in 2006.